Home' Special Magazines : Rodney Times Historical Insert Contents www.rodneytimes.co.nz
RODNEY TIMES, MARCH 20, 2012
Down by the Mahurangi River next to
the swimming hole at the end of Wilson Rd in
Warkworth is the remains of the first cement works in New Zealand.
Nathaniel Wilson, who married Florence Snell whose parents had settled at Snells Beach,
began making hydraulic lime on the site by the Mahurangi River in 1866. By 1883 he was
experimenting with making cement and in 1884 had produced satisfactory test batches.
He installed machinery to make the cement and it went on the market as Wilsons Portland
Cement in 1885. It was the
first commercially produced
quantities in the southern
By 1894 the works were
producing 100 tonnes a
week and a similar quantity
of lime and employing 180
men. Transport was by ship
and the river was very busy
by the turn of the century.
The lime quarry, which is
now a deep swimming hole,
was worked to a depth of
about 15 metres and had to
be pumped dry.
In 1918 Wilsons
amalgamated with two
other companies and the cement manufacture was shifted to a new up-to-date works at
Portland, Whangarei. The manufacture of hydraulic lime, however, continued at Wilson
Rd until 1919 when the plant was finally closed down and the machinery either shifted
to Portland or broken up for scrap.
Sadly, many of the historic kilns and most of the buildings were destroyed or damaged
by practice demolitions by the home guard and the United States forces during World
The big two-storey concrete house on the corner of Wilson Rd and Hepburn Creek Rd
was built by Nathaniel in 1903 and was known as Riverina. He lived there until his death
Information from Mahurangi River, Its Story, edited by H. J. Keys and published by
the Friends of the Mahurangi.
History books state that English
settler John Anderson Brown
arrived in the area in 1843 and was immediately struck by its
similarity with his hometown in northern England.
Brown purchased 153 acres (61.91 hectares) and his daughter Amelia bought 81 acres
(32.78 hectares). He then drew
up a subdivision plan, allocating
land for the Anglican Church
and cemetery. The names of
many streets are links to Brown's
homeland such as the names of
Northumberland's noble families
- Percy and Neville, and English
villages such as Alnwick, Morpeth
When the local Maori towed
Brown up the river they came to
a weir which prevented further
exploration and led to the town
-- originally called Brown's Mill
- being established where it is
today. Brown, a timber merchant
who arrived from Tasmania, set
up his timber mill to make full
use of river transport. He built his
first home above the weir, where the Tudor style Bridge House overlooks the Mahurangi
River. The river remained the town's lifeline, with steamboats and scows ferrying goods
and people to and from Auckland
until a metal road was built in the
Early industry included logging of
kauri and other timbers, flour milling,
boat-building, gum-digging, and the
Wilson cement and lime works.
It's a good fruit growing area,
including Matakana and Omaha,
with apples, pears, plums and
oranges boosting incomes until
fireblight wiped out many of the
orchards in the 1920s. Today's crops
include vineyards, citrus, avocados
Te Kawerau is the earliest remembered tangata whenua, or people of the land, in the Mahurangi.
They descended from the Ngati Awa and trace their roots back to the ancient peoples of the
early canoe Moekakara, said to have landed on Goat Island.
Visit www.warkworthnz.com for information.
The Masonic Hall was built in 1883 and served as a public hall until 1911 when a dedicated
building was constructed on the corner of Alnwick and Neville streets. On the opposite corner
a new post office was built the same year and had a telephone exchange within a year of
Wilsons Portland Cement Company built the dam below the town's bridge in 1905 in an attempt
to pipe water to the town.
In 1922 Stubbs Butchery first opened and took over the site on Wharf St that once housed
Bowen's Store, the first commercial premises to be built in the 1860s. The firestation opened in
1957 and the satellite station in Thompson Rd was completed in 1971.
Warkworth hosted thousands of United States soldiers during World War Two. There were 25
military camps throughout the town's farmlands. They carried out exercises prior to being sent
to the Pacific campaigns.
BANNER PICTURE: First bridge; Bridge House, first over the bridge, back in the late 1800s.
Photo: CHANGING TIMES
About 1908: Wilson cement works. Photo: CHANGING TIMES
1931 fire: Five buildings, including The Rodney and Otamatea Times,
burnt to the ground on Warkworth's main street.
Photo: CHANGING TIMES
Focus On: Warkworth
Bridge House: The Bridge House Lodge Bar and Restaurant next to the river.
It is the former house site of Warkworth's founder John Anderson Brown.
At home: The restored scow the Jane Gifford dockside
on the Mahurangi River, Warkworth.
Warkworth's restored historic scow
the Jane Gifford was built in 1908
by Davey Darroch at Whangateau.
Initially it carted granite from mines in Coromandel to
Auckland. She is 19.8 metres long on deck, has a six
metre beam and a displacement of 60 tonnes.
The Jane was based in Warkworth from 1921 to about
1938 and was used to cart shell from Miranda in the
Firth of Thames to the cement works on the banks of
the Mahurangi River. The scow also carted road metal
from a quarry at Motutara Island to Warkworth for the
area's road building. She carried stock to and from
Great Barrier Island and occasionally to Little Barrier
Island. Visit www.janegifford.org.nz to learn about the
Hours: Monday -- Friday 7.00am -- 6.00pm Saturday 8.00am -- 6.00pm
Sunday & Public Holidays 8.00am -- 6.00pm Phone: 425 8119
Kindly sponsored by Mitre 10 MEGA Warkworth WARKWORTH
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